If you had told me back in 2012 that Ariel and I would still be reading Fifty Shades five years from now, I would probably have been thrilled about that? Thanks a lot, past Matthew, you idiot. “We should do a blog together!” Past-Ariel said. “What if we read bad books?” Past-Matthew said. “I like it! Our friends keep telling us this Fifty Shades thing is bad, we could read that!” “We’re in a pub in England and everything seems like a good idea that won’t have lasting consequences!” “We definitely won’t be rereading this story for the rest of our lives!” “Stop complaining, 2017-Matthew,” Future-Matthew says. “It’s 2022 and E L James just rewrote these fucking books again from the roommate’s perspective. Netflix just released a tv reboot. E L James has her own line of Fifty Shades-branded sex toys.” “Actually, she has that now,” 2017-Matthew says. “My god,” Future-Matthew says. “It’s already begun.”
As much as I was hoping to get through this quickly, we’re probably splitting up every chapter into two or more posts. Much like its predecessor, Darker breaks up the story with one chapter for each day of the story. Which means that this 560-page book is only ten chapters long. Logistically, this is relevant because Ariel and I have to break up these chapters into more manageable chunks to summarize. Story-wise, this is relevant because it really draws attention to how the events of this story somehow take place over ten days.
Alright, let’s get to it.
Darker Chapter 1 (Part 2):
THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2011
Christian makes Ana go to dinner with him.
I grab her hand. “Come, we need to talk.” Before I fuck you. “And you need to eat.”
Technically this is before where Ariel and I decided to split up this chapter but how could I not share this kind of writing with you. “You’ve read the books, but now get into Christian’s mind like never before!” Christian thinks about fucking “Imagine the possibilities.”
They’re seated and Christian’s internal monologue complains about the waiter from start to finish for this scene. For no particularly clear reason.
“Er, we only sell that wine by the bottle, sir.”
“A bottle, then.” You stupid prick.
What wonderful new insights we’re getting into Christian Grey. He’s annoyed about his waiter. He’s every worst person I’ve ever met in New York.
Christian orders for Ana, which annoys her. Christian asks Ana if she’d like to choose the wine, even though they both know she knows nothing about wine. In Fifty Shades Darker, from Ana’s perspective, she just gets irked by his arrogance. In Darker, from Christian’s perspective, we get to see that… he’s arrogant.
“Would you like to choose the wine?” I ask and I know I sound sarcastic.
“You choose.” She presses her lips together.
Yeah. Don’t play games with me, baby.
Yeah, stunning new depths of Christian’s psyche here. You get the picture. Not that we’d expect him to be a totally different person once we get into his head (that’d be way more bananas), but there’s a lot of this. It’s not really worth going over except as a reminder about the obvious: yes, this is really mostly the exact same book.
It’s very for the die-hards, yet at the same time, there’s not a whole lot here for them either. Because while occasionally Christian’s perspective occasionally reveals something unintentionally hilarious…
Perhaps my behavior over the last hour has finally driven her away.
(Do you think?) …mostly it’s just Christian reacting to the story we already know… basically the same way we already know he did.
“Nothing’s changed. I can’t be what you want me to be.” Her expression is bleak.
No. No. No.
“You are what I want you to be. […] You’re upset because of what happened last time. I behaved stupidly, and you—so did you. Why didn’t you safe-word, Anastasia?”
She looks surprised, as if this isn’t something she’s considered.
“Answer me,” I urge.
This has haunted me. Why didn’t you safe-word, Ana? […]
“I don’t know,” she whispers.
I’m rendered speechless.
You know what really adds a lot to a key story moment where new information put someone in stunned silence? Hearing them explain in a new book published five years later that this new information put them in stunned silence. It’s like a whole new story.
Now to be fair, while a ton of the book is constrained by having to retell the same story, occasionally Darker has some room to breathe. And just like we saw with Grey, the only particularly interesting moments are where Christian goes off on his own train of thought, actually telling us more of his side of the story. But, also like we saw with Grey, most of these moments somehow only make Christian seem more self-centered and arrogant.
Did I remind her of her safe words? Christ. I can’t remember. […]
I’m an idiot.
I should have reminded her.
Wait. She knows she has safe words. I remember telling her more than once.
OH COOL PROBLEM FUCKING SOLVED THEN IT’S ALL ANA’S FAULT
So what other kinds of unique insights do we get from Christian’s perspective… there’s the weirdly insightful moments that suggest Christian is more conscious of how fucked up everything is (which don’t really add anything since… we already know how he acts for the remainder of the story anyway…)
She can’t tell me what she thinks I want to hear. What kind of relationship is that?
And there’s Christian Grey addressing himself in pseudo-business speak:
Damn it, Grey. Eliminate the negative.
There’s actually a lot of this.
Don’t blow this deal, Grey.
Lest we forget that Christian is a really real businessman who is good at business.
Also don’t think too hard about how the books rewritten from Christian Grey’s perspective confirm that he literally sees his romantic pursuits with a human person with human feelings as just another business transaction. Super don’t think about that.
Yes. It’s irrelevant now. I’m going to try a relationship her way, if she’ll let me.
Ok, let’s take another look at what’s actually going on in the story, then. Christian and Ana are having their first reunion since they broke things off a few days ago. Christian wants to get back together and is willing to make concessions to offer Anastasia something more like what she wants, while she tries to get a handle on whether he’s actually capable of this. Right, Christian?
I’m hopeful we can make my proposition work. Her reaction to the kiss in the alley was…visceral. She still wants me. I know I could have fucked her there and she wouldn’t have stopped me.
DUDE, I THOUGHT YOU WERE HERE TO MAKE CONCESSIONS. Also can we take a moment to appreciate that hahahaha holy shit E L James really wrote “I know I could have fucked her there and she wouldn’t have stopped me” in a romance novel in the year of our lord 2017. Read the news much?
Not to get serious, but it’s really worth considering that some time has passed since the Fifty Shades phenomenon was at full force. What exactly is Fifty Shades‘ place in the world in 2017?
You know, whenever it’s just not answering boring mysteries from the original novels. Like this passage from Fifty Shades Darker where Ana gets into Christian’s car, but Christian has a conversation with his driver, Taylor, first.
This isn’t their usual protocol. I’m curious. What are they talking about.
Well, out of Darker, there is the motherfucking light:
“Good evening, Taylor. Do you have your iPod and headphones?”
“Yes, sir, never leave home without them.”
“Great. Use them on the way home.”
“Of course, sir.”
“What will you listen to?”
“Good choice.” I smile. As ever, he surprises me. I’d always assumed his musical tastes leaned toward country and rock.
Why, all this time it was a boring and wanky conversation about classical music where Christian definitely told his employee to drive incredibly dangerously? ALL SECRETS REVEALED!
Christian Grey and Ana have the infamous kinky fuckery conversation and Christian’s thoughts are exactly what we assumed they would be:
I take a deep breath. “Let me ask you something first. Do you want a regular vanilla relationship, with no kinky fuckery at all?”
“Kinky fuckery?” she squeaks in disbelief.
“Kinky fuckery.” […]
“I like your kinky fuckery,” she whispers.
Oh, baby, so do I.
Whoa, did you guys know Christian Grey likes kinky fuckery? How could I have known about this before this book?
“I am in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.”
Fuck. Flowery, Grey! Real flowery.
Actually, I can’t knock this one. It’s kind of hilarious that this is almost the last thing he says before Ana agrees to get back together with him and now we know that even he thinks it’s cloying as shit. Maybe this book will have some redeeming v- actually, wait, I’m gonna read my next note before I finish that sentence…
She loves me.
I test the phrase in my head and what’s left of my heart, and swallow the knot of fear that forms in my throat as those words ring through me.
I can do this.
I can live with this.
I must. I need to protect her and her vulnerable heart.
LOL HER VULNERABLE HEART? OK COOL WE’RE GOOD HERE. THIS IS STILL HILARIOUS.
Ana asks Christian about why she can’t touch him, we get him wondering “why would she want to know this shit”, deciding to hint at his childhood where his mom’s pimp abused him, a flashback to said childhood. Then Christian reflects on how many nightmare-plagued nights he’s had since Ana, “my dreamcatcher”, left him (which is a romance novel trope we saw living on in the book we were literally reading just last week). Then he reflects on the novelty of “my first vanilla relationship” and we get an actual new flashback to his days as Elena’s BDSM boy toy:
I can tell by the way you’re standing that you have something to tell me.
I dare a quick peek at Elena as her scarlet lips curl into a smile and she crosses her arms, flogger in hand.
You may speak.
I have a place at Harvard.
Her eyes flash.
Ma’am, I add quickly
Real talk, these flashbacks are the most interesting part of the Christian Grey-perspective rewrites. If there’s a relationship that wasn’t given the time to develop that its importance to the story required, it’s Christian and Elena’s.
Though perhaps you should be rewarded for good behavior, she purrs. And she hits me again, across my chest this time, but soft, more playful. It’s quite the achievement to get into Harvard, my dear, dear pet. […] So you’ll leave me. […]
My eyes spring open and I glance at her in alarm. […]
You’ll leave me and find some young college girl.
She grabs my face, her nails biting into my skin.
You will. Her ice-blue eyes burn into mine, scarlet lips twisted in a snarl.
She laughs and pushes me away and raises her hand. But the blow never comes.
Things that make Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian worth reading: insights into how Christian became the fucked-up person he is. Things that don’t: insights into how Christian is such a snob that he scrutinizes his employees’ tastes in classical music.
The rest of the chapter ends on a note where Christian Grey… actually seems kinda cute…
She’s mine once more. And for a moment I feel giddy. A stupid grin splits my face and I shake my head. Have I ever felt like this? I’m excited for the future.
And then ends with the scene where he gifts her an iPad, which – like everything else in this weirdo rewrite – is either weird nonsense…
“I have something for you.”
This is it. Will she accept my gift? This is the final stage of my campaign to win her back.
(You are already back together, dude!) …or kiiinda shows us a different side of Christian but not really.
I imagine her in her apartment, opening the box. Will she be pissed? Or will she be delighted?
She’ll be pissed.
Turns out she loves the iPad, but still, so great we have these new books to confirm that Christian knew he was going to piss off the love of his life and did so anyway.